India and Pakistan - The Earthquake: Peace Amid the Ruins

Can natural disasters, like last year’s tsunami and now the Asian earthquake, break the deadlock in long-running political disputes? In the case of Kashmir, half a century of distrust is proving hard to overcome, despite the scale of human tragedy.

The World Today
Published 1 December 2005 Updated 15 October 2020 4 minute READ

‘One earthquake’, India’s Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee observed recently, ‘cannot alter the history of the last 50 years’. Yet the agreement between India and Pakistan to open five points along the line of control which separates their areas of Kashmir, for the first time since 1947, is clearly momentous. Since then, the carefully timed bomb attacks in New Delhi have threatened to validate Mukherjee’s claim and abort the frantic search for peace.

Nowhere is the urgency greater than in Pakistan where the earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people and left three million homeless, has raised expectations of a genuine national consensus and a comprehensive peace settlement with India. International giving to help those affected by the disaster, though still far short of UN targets, could, some believe, also ease popular hostility to the west and set the tone for a new chapter in Pakistan’s global relations.

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